For the first two years of my running, I think I had a mental block. I averaged 10 minute miles on my training runs whether I was running two miles or 20. I can't be sure why that happened, but looking back on it, I am starting to suspect it was because I "told" myself that that was the pace I could run.
But about eight months ago, I started to "run slower, to run faster." I found the proper pace zones based on my PRs at the time and I stuck to them. I built my mileage base. I stopped running every training run at the same speed. I became more deliberate in my training. And over the course of months, I saw myself (and my training posse) get faster.
The other day, G and I were talking about how "9 minute miles are the new 10 minute miles." And how without us even realizing it, we have managed to up our game. Obviously, we realized that our times were dropping, but we hadn't paid attention to how far we had come since this time last year (kind of like someone who loses a ton of weight, but they don't "see" it because the loss has been gradual for them).
Yesterday, we ran our five mile loop. The same five mile loop our group runs twice a week. When we finished, my Garmin read an average pace of 8:51. And we talked THE WHOLE TIME. All I could think was, "8:51? That's nuts. There was a time in the not so distant past when 8:51 would have been 5K race pace for me."
That's when I decided to go back and see the progression of pace over this five mile course. And here's what I found ...
On 9/8, we averaged 10:12
On 10/5, we averaged 9:49
On 10/26, we averaged 9:40
On 11/30, we averaged 9:19
and on 12/9, we averaged 8:51
And the intensity remained the same ...
So, what does this show me? Well, two things. First, that if you want to improve, you need to be deliberate about your training. And second, if you want to improve, you need to BELIEVE that you can improve.